History of HAWS


In 1965 a group of concerned Waukesha County residents realized there was a need for a county-wide humane society and centralized shelter building, where homeless and stray animals could be cared for humanely, and given a second chance. Up until this time, each municipality in the county handled its own animal impounding, creating confusion for residents and no main “clearinghouse” to reconnect lost dogs with their owners.

In July of that year, the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County was granted incorporation. After a general meeting and election of a board of directors, the search began for a suitable shelter site and design. Fundraising also began in earnest, through solicitation mailings and direct requests to local residents for charter memberships.

In November, 1967 the Waukesha County Board agreed to lease county land on Northview Road in Waukesha to History1968_134x94HAWS. Building plans were finalized and ground was broken in September 1968. Showing true community spirit, many suppliers donated materials to the project, including planning and contracting fees donated by Mike Schallock. Founders such as Romey Schoeninger and Jane Knox painted all the interior walls. The Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity of Carroll College (now Carroll University) even manned shovels to dig drain tile tunnels.

While the shelter was under construction, a shuttle service was used. Dedicated HAWS volunteers Jane Knox, Mary Whipple and Jeanette Saunders used their own vehicles to transport unwanted animals from Waukesha to Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Humane Society. They handled 21 animals their very first week, indicating the growing need in our community! HAWS’ own shelter couldn’t be done quickly enough!

The shelter for HAWS held its grand opening on July 19, 1969. Jane Knox was employed as shelter manager, and HistoryMrsMerkel_143x102directors Kathleen Merkel and Romey Schoeninger assisted along with one part-time kennel caretaker. Ruth Hough was the first volunteer wildlife rehabilitator. A dream was realized — a caring place for the county’s residents to bring the animals they could no longer keep, in addition to an excellent location in the middle of Waukesha County to house stray animals looking to reconnect with their owners.

Additions to the building came quickly as needs continued to rise. Expansions in 1973, 1979, 1991, 2009 and 2012 included areas for training and classes, which illustrated HAWS’ dedication from the very beginning toward community education on animal welfare.

Today the HAWS shelter includes a kennel with adoption, stray, quarantine and special care areas; separate, dedicated wards for dogs, cats and small animals; a lobby with interview rooms and administrative offices; two multi-purpose rooms for meetings, seminars and training; and a spay/neuter suite (2001) for the sterilization of shelter animals, as well as other animals in need. Our staff of over 40 employees includes Executive Director Lynn Olenik, hired in 2004; a Humane Educator, Certified Dog Behaviorist, Mobile Adoptions Coordinator, Veterinarians, experienced Adoption Counselors, Kennel Caregivers, and development and administrative staff.

Our present-day facility accommodates over 8,000 animals each year and welcomes more than 35,000 human visitors. Building on this strong foundation, HAWS expansions and renovations ensure the facility will continue to meet the ever-growing and expanding needs of our community. See our Facility Expansion page for more!

We are extremely proud of our humble beginnings and our service to Waukesha County over the past 40+ years. We look forward to the future!


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2010 Waukesha County Executive Awards Large Non-Profit of the Year

Donate to HAWS Today!

General donations help us provide shelter 24/7 365 for lost, abandoned, unwanted or stray companion pets.
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